The Most Important Magical Tree
Are artists and shamans faithless, committed to the moment and nothing else?
Sept 21, 2018 (Fall Equinox)
I fall in love with every bit of wood that I craft into a talisman.
As I’m sanding, doing pyrography, and otherwise working with a piece of wood, I start to realize how special it is.
A lot of the time, mind you, I see how marvelous it is to begin with but, oh, when I work in depth with it, I become enamored. When I strip off a layer of bark, nuances emerge. As I sand, the grain shows more and more. When I tenderly apply a beeswax finish, the wood’s mystical powers electrify my fingertips so I come to know both those powers and my skin.
It is through such thorough interactions that I understand wood, other people, the Gods, the emptiness from which of all creativity springs.
Often, the process of crafting a morsel of wood sends it and me into another world, where we rebuild Faerie.
Here’s that piece of wood when I first started working with it:
The sort of pyrography I tend to do is challenging to execute on some woods I use. Perhaps that’s because, unlike birch and basswood, which are the pyrographer’s staples, many woods that visit me tend to be ornery about pyrography. The wood-burning I usually see folks do on these woods is minimal and straight-lined—e.g., a solo rune or pentacle—whereas I attempt designs that are, by comparison, complex and detailed, and that include spirals, twists, and swirling flourishes.
Each difficult wood I pyrograph might have its own way of being ornery. Once I’ve figured out what will work on that type, it won’t necessarily work on another. I have to start figuring out a new way all over again. But determining how to pyrograph whatever wood is in my hand is giving me an understanding of the tree the wood is from, how different it is from all other trees. The realization that it would be too difficult to pyrograph more than a simple ogham or the like on some woods would be equally informative about the nature of the tree the wood is from.
From the toil that arises from committing to work with the wood as it is, from such thorough interactions, I can better understand that wood and do a better job serving it. When acting as a shamanic guide, the toil that arises from committing to work with a client as they are, such thorough interactions, allows me to better understand that individual, and thus do a better job for them. Such thorough interactions foster relationship. I fall in love with my clients.
My analogies between woods and clients do not extend to the orneriness of some woods. My clients aren’t ornery. I must have the easiest clients in the world. I wonder why the Goddess sends me ornery woods and easy students.
When I see what pyrographed design the wood in question will allow, that is part of my falling in love. The more I work with a piece, the more I adore it.
I am eternally fickle, wholeheartedly deeming each piece of wood my new favorite. Each one shows me how the tree from which it came is the most beautiful, important, and magical in all the planet. Each piece of wood is my new friend, gifting me its secrets. It has exactly what I need to make my life the way I want it.
It doesn’t matter how many pieces of oak (or elder or willow or other tree) have found their way into my hands, each oaken (elder, willow, or other tree bit) is the new and only path to power and ecstasy.
Within days, another piece of wood catches my fancy.
Whenever I work with a client, I am in love with that individual, eternally fickle, wholeheartedly deeming each client my favorite, the teacher’s pet. Each is the most beautiful, important, and magical being on all the planet. Each is my new friend, gifting me their presence. Serving that client is exactly what I need to transform my spirit into how I want to be.
I am eternally faithful: regardless of how many clients I work with in a given day, or how many folks are in a class, or how many times I’ve worked with a given client before, each time I work with a client, I understand how irreplaceable and essential they are to the universe and to me. (I usually keep class enrollment small, to have time for thorough interactions.)
Do I seduce wood, do I coax it to cooperate with my desire for it to be the most important piece of wood so I can be in union with it? Do artists and shamanic guides practice serial monogamy, devoted to each art piece or student, but only until it’s time to turn their attention to the next art project or client?
Artists and shamans are faithless, committed to the moment and nothing else. No, that’s not true. They’re also committed to crafting the next moment, so that it will be beautiful, so that it will best serve the client. The job of artists and shamans is to craft the next moment. … They are faithful to that job. … It is a prevalent lie that they are faithless. They serve. They serve. They belong completely and unceasingly to their students and the Muse.
I revel in the void of outer space, from which all creation comes. There, I constantly feed the stars. There, I am faithful to the needs of wood, clients, Gods, and self.
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